from the District Court of Wells County, Southeast Judicial
District, the Honorable James D. Hovey, Judge.
Kathleen K. Murray, State's Attorney, Wells County
State's Attorney Office, for plaintiff and appellant.
Garrett D. Ludwig, for defendant and appellee.
1] The State appeals from a district court order granting
Caren Ashby's motion to suppress evidence seized after a
traffic stop. Suppression was based on the district
court's conclusion that the officer did not have
reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop. The State
argues the traffic stop was supported by reasonable
suspicion. We reverse and remand.
2] Caren Ashby was arrested for several drug related offenses
after a traffic stop in Wells County on August 26, 2015.
Caren Ashby moved to suppress all evidence seized from the
traffic stop, and the State opposed the motion. Caren Ashby
challenged the validity of the traffic stop and argued all
evidence uncovered should be suppressed. The State argued the
traffic stop was supported by reasonable suspicion or was
valid as a community caretaking function. The district court
held a hearing. At the hearing, the arresting officer
testified he was on patrol the day of the arrest and received
a "BOLO" teletype alert at 11:58 a.m. This alert
was entitled "NDSLIC Request for Information/Case
Support" and stated:
WELFARE CHECK ON 2 MINOR CHILDREN, [two children's names
and dates of birth]. THE PARENTS ARE MATTHEW AND CAREN ASHBY
AND ARE REPORTEDLY USING DRUGS HEAVILY. SOCIAL SERVICES HAS
BEEN TRYING TO MAKE CONTACT REPEATEDLY BUT THEY CONTINUE TO
AVOID THEM. THEY MAY BE DRIVING A 2007 WHITE CROWN VIC WITH
WA/LIC ATN6050. THE PAINT IS PEALING ON THE HOOD OR A LATE
1990'S DARK BROWN CHEVY SUBURBAN WITH NO LICENSE PLATES.
IF LOCATED, PLEASE CONTACT STUTSMAN COUNTY SOCIAL SERVICES AT
(LIBBY (701)269-XXXX) OR (STEPH (701)490-XXXX).
officer testified because this BOLO originated from
Jamestown, he believed it would be pertinent to him because
he patrolled in that area.
3] The officer continued patrol, traveling on Highway 52. The
officer testified he spotted a white Ford Crown Victoria with
peeling paint on the hood and Washington plates traveling the
opposite direction on Highway 52 at 1:17 p.m. The officer
noticed it matched the description from the BOLO and
immediately turned around to follow the vehicle. The officer
testified as he caught up to the vehicle, it
"immediately turned off onto the rest area in Sykeston,
on the north side of Highway 52." The officer
"thought it was interesting that [the vehicle]
immediately turned right off the highway." The officer
testified this indicated "[a]lmost the premise of...
eluding, due to the fact that they were aware that I was
there, and it's not a very active rest area. So, it kind
of sparked my interest and a little bit of suspicion."
The officer continued to travel on Highway 52 and turned
right to travel north on Highway 30, which is adjacent to the
rest area. The officer pulled into a field approach to face
the direction of the rest area parking lot to observe the
vehicle and its occupants. The officer saw an adult female,
adult male, and two small children outside the vehicle. The
officer testified the vehicle and individuals were at the
rest stop for about five minutes and none entered the rest
stop facility during that time.
4] While observing the individuals, the officer made phone
calls in an effort to confirm the information from the BOLO.
The officer determined the vehicle, male and female
occupants, and two small children matched the information
from the BOLO. The officer then called Stutsman County Social
Services and spoke to Libby, who was named as a contact
person in the BOLO. The officer testified Libby told him
"Matthew and Caren were known drug users; heavy users at
that" and that "family had reported them using hard
drugs and methamphetamine and heroin and things of that
nature." The officer testified Libby indicated she was
"concerned for their children, due to the fact that both
of them were using and involved in drugs." The officer
testified Libby told him Stutsman and Ward County Social
Services and Ward County Narcotics Task Force were
investigating the Ashbys. The officer testified he believed
it was significant the task force was investigating the
Ashbys. The officer testified Stutsman County Social Services
indicated they had been trying to make contact with the
Ashbys since January 2015.
5] The officer also spoke with Officer Ackland of the
Jamestown Police Department about the BOLO. The officer
Officer Ackland stated that he was in contact with Libby from
social services; had received a phone call from her in
regards to Matthew and Caren Ashby and both of their
children. From further... on in the conversation, Officer
Ackland stated that he had made personal contact with
Caren's grandmother, at which point he stated that
Caren's grandmother was supposed to be watching the kids
that day and that Matthew and Caren had ...